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Spotlite

JUDGING A SHIRT BY ITS BOOK COVER

A Spotlite on OUT OF PRINT CLOTHING, and its Co-Founder TODD LAWTON

By Tyler Malone

July / August 2012

T-shirts have long been a way for modern men and women to advertise their likes, obsessions, and opinions. Before there was Facebook, and everyone had a wall somewhere in the world wide web on which to post, there was always the canvas of the classic “T” that acted as the perfect wall. In my specific case, for example, there was a time when you couldn’t find me in anything other than a David Bowie t-shirt or an Anti-Bush t-shirt. These days though, even if my love of Bowie and my hate of Bush have remained relatively constant, my need to highlight my opinions on the two have waned. Now I have a different favorite novel shirt for every day of the week, and they’re all from the lovely new company Out of Print Clothing.

I first was introduced to their shirts while shopping at the Strand. That bookstore carries a handful of the shirts in Out of Print’s catalogue, but after buying every shirt they had that featured a book I liked emblazoned on the chest (I only left Atlas Shrugged unpurchased), I was left wanting more.

On the label of one of my shirts, I noticed that Out of Print Clothing had a website so I thought I’d check it out. I discovered a treasure trove of great literary t-shirts. James Joyce’s Ulysses and William Faulkner’s A Light in August, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and William Burrough’s Naked Lunch, the options are numerous. And over time I’ve purchased the majority of them. After all, what’s better than wearing your heart on your sleeve? Wearing your favorite book on your shirt.

I spoke with the co-founder of Out of Print Clothing, Todd Lawton, to discuss this special union of literature and fashion.

Tyler Malone: How did you and Jeffrey LeBlanc start Out of Print clothing, and what is the mission of the company?

Todd Lawton: Jeff and I have known each other since the 2nd grade; where we met in 1984. We’ve been life-long friends with many shared interests. One of our passions is for books. In 2009, we found ourselves more committed to the idea of becoming entrepreneurs than ever before. We decided to create our own dream job by making a company that focused on one of our core passions that at the same time helps other people improve their lives through a one-for-one book donation model.

The idea for Out of Print really came to us as a question that we wanted to share with the many book readers of the world: “What does the book cover mean in the digital age?” We have always had a strong attraction to the many beautiful book covers of our favorite reads and we thought having a shirt to wear would be an interesting way to get people sharing their love of books. We also thought that readers were long overdue for a fashion statement of their own. Out of Print not only starts conversations about books, but it makes the wearer (or carrier in the case of some of our products) feel really good about themselves and the statement they are making.

TM: Obviously there is no shortage of great classic literature to make shirts out of. With all the possible books you could choose, how do you pick the ones you make?

TL: In the beginning it was mostly books that we read and liked, but soon after launching, our customers started emailing us suggestions. Now on our site we have a prominent field where we take our customers suggestions for new titles/covers. We have a running list of all the suggestions we’ve received, and now largely let it guide a good deal of our content decisions.

TM: Sometimes you have old classic covers, sometimes new designs. Could you tell us the process? Do you pick what book and then figure out a design? Or do they both figure in to the initial choosing?

TL: Both the design and the title/author play big roles in determining if it is a good idea to invest the resources to pursue a new cover. It’s a lot of work to license the content and then create the product, so we have to feel certain to a pretty high degree that the design/title is going to work on a number of levels (look great on a shirt, etc., matter to the customer, and if it’s going to get people excited).

TM: What is your favorite shirt you’ve made thus far?

TL: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Harold the Purple Crayon…but actually my favorites change daily.

TM: What is your favorite novel? And have you made a shirt from it or will you?

TL: Mine is Catch 22 which we have a shirt for. Jeff’s is Count of Monte Cristo which we’d love to do at some point.

TM: Have there been any books that you’ve wanted to do, but have been unable to acquire the rights?

TL: There are a handful of books that we have wanted to include and for one reason or another they aren’t available. The good news is that we can always do something else!

TM: One shirt you have is the Pop Poe shirt, done in a Warholian Pop Art style. Do you have plans to do more author-related shirts that aren’t necessarily book covers?

TL: We have many ideas and look forward to pleasantly exciting our fans and customers with them.

TM: As you expand and grow your business, what do you have planned for the future of Out of Print clothing?

TL: Very soon we will launch our eJacket collection for the iPad and Kindle Fire. The rest will have to remain a mystery. The best way to hear about our new products and promotions is to sign up for our email and/or follow us on Facebook.

Todd Lawton is the co-founder of Out of Print Clothing.

LINKS:

Out of Print Clothing – Official Site

Out of Print Clothing on Facebook

Todd Lawton interviewed by Tyler Malone

Written by Tyler Malone

Photography Courtesy of Todd Lawton and Out of Print Clothing

Design by Marie Havens

Captions:

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Photography Courtesy of Todd Lawton and Out of Print Clothing

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